Give Now

Neighborhood Series: Community Environmental Council

Kathi King, Director of Outreach and Education (left)

“A neighborhood is like being a part of a big family – everyone is always there to help and look out for each other.” – Deanna Vallejo

Previously in the Neighborhood Series, we talked to the Hutton Parker Foundation and learned that the foundation actually creates its own neighborhoods by leasing out buildings to nonprofits at below-market rents. One of the nonprofits that rents an office in the same building as the foundation is the Community Environmental Council (CEC). So, we decided to ask Kathi King, the Director of Outreach and Education for CEC, what neighborhood means to them.

“Being a neighbor means knowing people outside of your little bubble,” said King. “It means having friendships with the people that own the stores and restaurants around you and being familiar enough with each other so that you can partner when you have shared interests.”

The Community Environmental Council was founded in 1970 after the one-year commemoration ceremony of the 1969 oil spill that covered the beaches and wildlife of Santa Barbara. Inspired by the success of the commemoration event, a group of community activists decided to create CEC, a nonprofit organization, headquartered on Anapamu Street in downtown Santa Barbara. As CEC grew over the next decade, it focused its efforts on education, bridge building and piloting new ideas, like creating several garden projects and children’s camps. In 1984, CEC moved to the Mesa because it needed more space to accommodate these increasing programs. In 2004, CEC refocused its mission on the transition to clean energy, which meant it had to cease some of its other programs. No longer needing as much space, CEC moved back to Anapamu Street in 2005, which is where it is a neighbor to the Hutton Parker Foundation today.

“Our return to Anapamu Street mimicked the organization’s desire to focus in on itself instead of outwardly on its projects and businesses, which has allowed us to become more of a think and do tank and focus on our future,” said King. “It is really convenient to be right in the heart of downtown because it is easy to get to work, host meetings, meet people for lunch and get together with our nonprofit partners.”

Some of CEC’s nonprofit neighbors include the Orfalea Downtown Center, which is located right across the street, and the Fund for Santa Barbara, which is located in the same building as CEC, and the two often share office space and equipment. However, CEC has also found ways to partner with neighboring businesses through events like the Earth Day celebration.

“When I started working at CEC, Earth Day was more of a small, neighborhood event,” said King. “However, over the years, we began to find more opportunities for partnerships and sponsorships, which is when I met the founders of Green Star Coffee.”

Green Star Coffee, located on Victoria Street, shares CEC’s values for sustainable, organic and local food systems, which is why it is one of CEC’s staff favorites. CEC staff members are also patrons of Savoy, located on Figueroa, and find themselves there daily for lunch meetings and even staff meetings.

“Savoy sometimes feels like a community cafeteria because when you walk inside, it is a neighborhood in itself,” said King. “I know the owners, so even if I do not grab lunch there, I like to stop in and say hello before running over to my favorite store Crossroads.”

In addition to partnering with other organizations in the area, CEC takes the idea of being a neighbor even one step further and helps out individuals.

“We have a young woman who grabs boxes from the Post Office and sleeps on our outdoor landing,” said King. “We gave her a blanket and, any time I am going into the office and she is there, I will take the elevator because I do not want to disturb her. Sometimes, being a good neighbor simply means being respectful and understanding of all that comes with your neighborhood.”

Stay tuned for the next Neighborhood Series as we continue the conversation with Savoy, with whom CEC partners with and frequents for lunch, and find out what neighborhood means to them.
North County Headquarters:  (805) 346-6123  |   2625 S. Miller Street, Suite 101, Santa Maria, CA 93455
South County Headquarters:  (805) 963-1873  |  1111 Chapala Street, Suite 200, Santa Barbara, CA 93101